I was on a call with a potential client yesterday and her first question, which I get often, was “Is this going to be a rip off?” She, like many business owners, had heard all about the SEO boom where everyone was working in SEO, making big promises of first page results on Google, and charging thousands of dollars for it – yet never really producing any results. Sadly, I still see this often, and because of it, I’ve structured my SEO service offerings very different than most SEO companies I’ve seen, and no matter who you’re chatting with about your SEO needs, I’ve created a guide to make the process a little easier and give you a little piece of mind.
RED FLAGS (IE. RUN!)
- “I can get your page number one on Google/Bing/etc.”
Okay, so this is the big one! If the person you’re talking to, or their companies website, claims to be able to rank you at a certain spot in a search engine, hangup the phone (or be polite and say you’re going to look elsewhere). There is no SEO consultant or company, no matter how great they are, that can make a guarantee like that. Search engine rankings change all the time, algorithms change, and what works today, isn’t necessarily going to work tomorrow. There are basic best practices that, for the most part, will always help your search presence, those are things you should invest having optimized, but don’t fall for ranking promises that are impossible to fulfill.
- Giving you a quote/price before looking at the current state of your website and traffic
Something that has always bothered me with standard SEO companies is that they always seem to have a number that they throw out to a new client, without ever even looking through their website. When I first got into SEO I thought that was how the pricing structure had to be and was totally guilty of throwing out a $5,000 price, only to dive in and see that either a) the site was already pretty well optimized and there were minimal adjustments to make or b) the site was basically trash in regards to SEO best practices and without a totally new website, content strategy, and basically starting from ground-zero, there was no way I could make it better. Obviously in those cases, my random “price” was going to to either be way too high, or way too low, for the amount of work that it would entail. Thus my SEO Audit was born. Now….before I even discuss a possible strategy, timeline, budget, expected results, etc with a potential client, I conduct an SEO audit and keyword research. I have a whole post on them, here, but the short version is that it’s my way to not only understand the current state of my client’s website, traffic, and competition, but also for them to already have information that will give them a return on their investment. The information in my audit is useful in all aspects of their business, and whether they choose to invest anymore in SEO, either with me or an outside company, they have a view of their online business that they can understand and will benefit from. Along with the audit I provide a full list of recommendations and an SEO strategy so they can choose if that’s something that they want to move forward with or not. It seems that the biggest hurdle with companies hiring for SEO is that they don’t know what they are even hiring for- this is my way of clearing this up.
- “You won’t see any results without running a pay-per-click campaign.”
Yes, running a pay-per-click campaign is a good addition, in some cases, to SEO efforts and…. yes, they produce quicker results than organic SEO. But, I tend to see this being a scam, for lack of better words, that SEM companies run where they force you to spend, spend, spend on advertising – and when you stop….your site is in the same condition as before. I whole-heartedly believe that PPC campaigns are great and have helped my clients hit their goals, but if you want LASTING, quality, and eventually FREE results, investing in your organic SEO efforts is what it’s going to take.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
- “What does this quote get me?”
There are tons of aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, paid, organic, social media strategy, copy-writing, content creation, image optimization, technical crawl tests and optimization, etc. The person you’re speaking with should be able to explain exactly what they are going to do to “Optimize for Search Engines” since that’s what SEO stands for, and what you’re paying them to do.
- “What kind of results should I expect?”
Ok…so I know I just told you not to listen to people promise to get you somewhere on a search ranking page, but they should be able to tell you what to expect. When I am working with an SEO client this can vary based on what we are working on, but something like “We will resolve all high and medium priority technical errors that could be causing a possible drop in rankings. I will also provide you monthly crawl tests and traffic reports so you have a full overview of the progress we are making.”
- “If I am not happy with the results, can I terminate the contract?”
If you are not happy with the results, you should know what to expect. If a client of mine is on a monthly retainer, I usually have a minimum time commitment (3 months is my standard) in the very beginning that I ask a client fulfill before terminating (then everything switches to month-to-month). This is because SEO efforts do not typically produce instant results, it’s just how search engines work. This is another reason I conduct an audit first, it provides enough time and information to the client for us to build a trusting relationship before I ask them to jump into a commitment. In the event that a client decides to terminate the contract, they still own all work that has been completed up until that point. I highly suggest making sure that your consultant has the same practice of ownership.
- “Can you give me some details about the strategy you would recommend?”
An SEO consultant should be able to give you some information about the strategy they would implement. What we do isn’t top secret and its nothing you couldn’t find on the internet. Chances are if someone doesn’t want to talk about their plan, they don’t have one, and you should be wary. Again, the reason I do an audit first is so I can- in detail- lay out a plan that the client can agree to before we start.
- “Do you handle development and code changes or would I need to hire one?”
This is a very important question, because the cost of hiring a web developer should be considered with the SEO quote to get a full picture of the total cost of this endeavor. Many SEO tactics involve web development changes so it’s just good to know up-front what your potential consultant has in mind in reference to these changes. While you’re at it, ask if they’re going to be doing any copy-writing or if you’ll need to do your own/hire someone for that too.